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My Favorite Mystery Novels of the Year

Slowly but surely, I'm creating a mostly complete list of my favorite books of 2011. Last time, it was science fiction and fantasy. Prior to that, it was young adult fiction. This time around, it's mystery/crime/thriller fiction.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante was one of the most haunting and emotionally affecting novels I read this year. LaPlante beautifully and heartbreakingly captures the life of a protagonist suffering from dementia and who may or may not have killed her best friend. The solution to the mystery was nothing spectacular, but the writing was incredible and made me excited to see what else Ms. LaPlante has up her sleeve.

The Most Dangerous Thing is another foray by Laura Lippman into the dark places of childhood and an exploration of how events can resonate far into the future. To my way of thinking, there is no one who captures both the wonder and the terror of childhood like Laura Lippman.

Louise Penny's A Trick of the Light is perhaps the most beautiful and personal so far in her series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the citizens of Three Pines. Events from previous novels are still exerting an influence, but a reader choosing this as their first Penny novel won't be set adrift. Art has always played a large part in the lives of Penny's characters, and never more so than it does here. I've read enough Mystery fiction that I'm rarely surprised by the denouement, and have stopped reading this type of book looking for a clever twist. Instead, I read for the same reason I read any other book — solid plotting, rich language, and characters I want to spend time with. Ms. Penny has never, in seven books, failed to deliver on any of these. (Nor has Laura Lippman, for that matter.)

After hearing so many good things, I finally read my first Jo Nesbø and am kicking myself for not having started sooner. The Snowman grabbed me from the first eerily suspenseful page and I didn't stop reading until I'd devoured the entire book. Nesbø has now become firmly entrenched on my must-read list, and there's a binge of his backlist in my not-too-distant future.

I didn't expect to like P. D. James's Death Comes to Pemberley, but I really should have known better. P. D. James is a talented writer, and, in her hands, Lizzie and Darcy and Jane and Bingley (and everyone else) were treated with loving respect. This is a charming and clever sequel to Pride and Prejudice that stays true to the tone of the original without being slavishly adherent to the vocabulary and syntax of the times. I can honestly say that I wouldn't mind if Ms. James paid further visits to the Darcy/Bingley/Bennet clan.

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Billie Bloebaum is a bona fide romance reader and would be reading romance novels even if she weren't reviewing them. She is also a new convert to eBooks, thanks to the writers of the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, who kindly loaned her a Sony Reader. However, since Billie has a deep and abiding love for the traditional book, she attempts to review books that are available in both formats.


Books mentioned in this post

  1. Turn of Mind
    Used Hardcover $10.95
  2. The Most Dangerous Thing Used Hardcover $6.50
  3. Death Comes to Pemberley
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  4. The Snowman
    Used Hardcover $7.95
  5. A Trick of the Light (Chief...
    New Hardcover $21.99



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